Props to Virginia; North Carolina should follow

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A big headline out of Virginia this month — the state has become the first in the nation to achieve functional zero in terms of veteran homelessness. In essence, this means that there are never more veterans experiencing homelessness than can be housed in an average month. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 4,000 veterans have been housed in the state since 2014.

It’s all part of a commitment made by the state of Virginia to tackle the issue of veteran homelessness. While there may still be isolated incidents of homeless veterans, the goal was to make these instances short, temporary and non-reoccurring.

So how has this effort thrived? It’s because of partnerships between federal, state and local governments, as well as nonprofit organizations, community leaders and local service providers. Starting in communities with high rates of veteran homelessness, the coordinating council, a state-level entity tasked with addressing the problem, began working with those communities to reduce the number of veterans on the streets.

Using a coordinated outreach, the communities identified by name every veteran living in homelessness and began placing them in housing. During this process, they were given access to income support, employment assistance, mental health services and resources to address trauma, physical disabilities and substance abuse.

The four communities that participated — Richmond, Roanoke, South Hampton and cities in the Peninsula region — housed 462 veterans in 100 days.

While this has been a tremendous effort on the part of many agencies and individuals, the end result is worth the price. No man or woman who wore the uniform should ever end up homeless. They deserve better, and the experiment in Virginia proves that we as a society can give them the support they deserve.

The report published online by the National Alliance to End Homelessness concludes in saying the efforts in Virginia should be looked at as a model in states and communities across the country. If they can do it there, why shouldn’t we be able to do it in North Carolina?

With commitment from federal, state and local leaders, the backing of community partners and the support of caring citizens, would it not be worth our time and treasure to end homelessness among our veteran population? If this strategy works with that population, who’s to say we couldn’t take it a step further? Given the proper support and resources, perhaps our society could become the first in the world to end homelessness. The veteran population is a good place to start.

Time to get to work, North Carolina.